The Prime Directive vs. The Great Commission

Live and let live sounds nice, but it’s actually incredibly cruel.

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I’ve been slowly making my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation. I love the cast, music, adventure, and nostalgia of it all.

However, one thing I always roll my eyes at is the Prime Directive. You Trekkies out there already know what I’m talking about, but for everyone else, here’s the gist: The Prime Directive basically states that the crew of the Enterprise should not get involved in the development of a newly discovered civilization in any way, even if it would be helpful for that civilization. Live and let live. Allow evolution to take it’s course. Don’t meddle.

How dumb.

Even when other cultures are on the verge of collapse or are committing genocide or desperately need outside assistance, the crew holds the supposedly moral high ground – generally refusing to help unless they are explicitly asked to or absolutely forced to.

Contrast this with the Great Commission:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

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Talk about two opposing philosophies! Whereas the Prime Directive is “Go, but don’t change anything” the Great Commission is “Go and change everything.” The Prime Directive is about passive observation, but the Great Commission is about active engagement. The Prime Directive is cold, impersonal, uncaring, and borderline evil, like a doctor or scientist watching a subject in pain but refusing to offer help. The Great Commission is rooted in love, compassion, and a commitment to improving the lives of others. It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything (Mark 10:14) but about sharing life changing good news and letting others decide what to do with it. It’s about investing in the flourishing and development of others instead of sitting back and taking notes.

Listen, I get that Star Trek is just a TV show. But it’s rooted in a secular, immoral, relativistic, and atheistic philosophy of life (compliments of its creator, Gene Roddenberry) which many real people actually adhere to.

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Back in college I read this book called Spirit of the Rainforest, a true story about a Yanomamo shaman. It makes a powerful case for reaching out to those in need instead of arrogantly assuming that they’re better off left alone. You should read it.

But even if you don’t, you already intuitively know how wrong a Prime Directive approach to life is. Because you know from experience the value of a helping hand, a wise word, a sacrificial act, a person who’s taken the initiative to make your life better, even if you didn’t appreciate it at the time.

“Live and let live” sounds nice but is actually incredibly cruel.

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That’s why I love and support the work of organizations like International Justice Mission. They are doing everything in their power to rescue the oppressed, end corruption, fight slavery, and stop violence. They are on the front lines, leveraging their time, energy, abilities, and resources for the good of others. They know that a Prime Directive philosophy of life is part of what created this mess in the first place.

You were born to make a difference. The world needs you to care enough to do something. To sacrifice. To risk rejection. To give without expecting anything in return.

So live the Great Commission. Go and make disciples. God is with you.

Author: Dave Mierau (Meer-oh)

Christ follower, family man, lifelong learner.

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